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Brooks and Marcus on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - July 30, 2010

JIM LEHRER: And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus, New York Times columnist David Brooks, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

David, I hope you heard what was just said about journalism skills and all of that and what kind of training it takes.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I would be a fantastic autoworker, as you know.

JIM LEHRER: Yes, right.

(LAUGHTER)

JIM LEHRER: Look, how do you read the political fallout from the Arizona judge decision on immigration?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it's perilous. I'm not a big supporter of that law. Nonetheless, you have got a population of people who think they are not being listened to by the authorities. They think illegal immigration is a big problem in their state for crime, for budget reasons, for a whole variety of reasons.

They think there are a lot of people in this country who do not live in neighborhoods where illegal immigrants are an issue, except maybe as gardeners, and who are not in jobs where illegal immigrants are competing. And they think those people aren't listening.

So, they go ahead and they pass a law, democratically, and it gets overturned by a judge. And whatever the merits of her decision, I think there's going to be a political backlash. And, this year, it will be a strong issue. It will raise the level of anger, and, in partisan terms, help Republicans.

JIM LEHRER: Help Republicans and hurt Democrats?

Do you agree, Ruth?

RUTH MARCUS: Not so much, actually. I think that the -- I understand the anger, and I understand the frustration, and I understand the concern about having judges overturn democratically passed laws, however flawed those laws are.

But the folks who are revved up about illegal immigration, who are angry at the Obama administration for filing this lawsuit, who are angry at the judge, who happened to be a Clinton appointee, for blocking the law from going forward, they are already pre-revved. They don't need anything to make them angrier at the Obama administration.

So, I don't see that extra bump from them. And, on the other side, the folks who are, in the Democratic base, a little unhappy with the president, I don't think that they are going to be revved up and particularly energized by the administration fighting the Arizona law.

But, at the same time, they know he's not going to be able to deliver comprehensive immigration reform, certainly not before the election -- it would be very difficult to do it afterwards -- to the Hispanic community. This is at least something that he can give to that community and to others who are concerned about providing a rational immigration system, not that it's going to help him in 2010, but it might be helpful in 2012.

JIM LEHRER: How do you see that, David, that there -- there is another side of this, that, among Latinos, but others...

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

JIM LEHRER: ... who think at least -- on the Democratic side, at least, that the president is doing something?

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

JIM LEHRER: You don't think...

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I don't see evidence that it is happening. There has been a lot of heartburn in the Latino community here in Washington among the activists that more has not been done in immigration.

And, clearly, the White House and the Democrats want to get Latino voters out to the polls. But, so far, when you look at the polls on intensity, so far, you just don't see it. And just on the number of people that who are upset about immigration, there is the hard-core talk radio types who -- Ruth is right -- are always going to be for the Republicans, and never going to be for Obama.

But I'm really struck by how broad hostility toward illegal immigration is. And you go to town hall meetings, it is Republican or Democrat, the question always comes up. It is always a similar sort of question. How big can a fence be?

And, so, I think it is a broad issue. You know, economically, it's just not that important. But, symbolically, it's a sense of playing by the rules. And, so, I think it's a broad issue that touches a lot of people.

RUTH MARCUS: It's obviously an emotional issue.

I guess my point is that the people who are so angered about people they see or imagine to be taking their jobs, they are already angry. They already have so many beefs with the administration, correct or not, that I'm not sure I see this as upping what is already a pretty high intensity level of unhappiness that is going to cost the Democrats in November.

JIM LEHRER: Speaking about what is going to cost the Democrats in November, where does the Charlie Rangel situation fit in?

(LAUGHTER)

RUTH MARCUS: Very nicely done.

JIM LEHRER: That is what is called a segue.

(LAUGHTER)

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